Forensic Psychologists Salary
Okay, let us get down to the nitty-gritty. How much can I make as a forensic psychologist? What’s the 2016 Forensic Psychology Salary? Well, like most professions, the more specialized you become, the more competition you eliminate in pursuit of a customer. Forensic psychologists and neuropsychologists are specializations that are only earned after having already completed a doctoral program in psychology. Many are worn-out after completing a master’s degree, let alone a doctoral degree. Few are prepared to jump through even more hoops of board certification and other qualifications to become a forensic psychologist. Therefore, the salary for forensic psychologists tends to be higher than salaries for therapists with doctoral degrees who are competing for the same business that social workers with two-year master’s degrees are trying to get.
If a psychologist goes out and joins an insurance panel such as Aetna, Cigna, or Blue Cross and Blue Shield, it is not uncommon for them to be able to bill a maximum of $65 to $95 for a 45-minute therapy session with the client. The other 15 minutes is expected to be spent writing chart notes. There is also overhead for therapy space to pay at $25 per hour if just renting therapy office space by the hour or by the day. Yes, so as a therapist with a doctoral degree, you may only be able to clear a $40 profit per hour. Ouch!!!
However, insurance companies do not cover forensic psychology services requested by the court. Reimbursement for forensic psychology services is provided by attorneys who typically get this money from their clients. These money may also be provided by the state if you have a state contract with a public defender’s office or some other state agency requiring forensic mental health assessments such as the Social Security Disability Determinations Office in your state. From what we gathered from our mentors, these state agencies are known to pay a little bit over $100 per hour with caps on the number of hours you can bill for a particular service/evaluation.
For forensic psychologists retained directly by an attorney for a particular case, some of our mentors have billed over $400 per hour while others have billed an average of $200 per hour. If testimony is required, our mentors’ bill either by the day or half day, meaning if they testified for an hour, they are billing for four hours. If they testified for 4 hours and 15 minutes, they are billing for eight hours. That is a potential of $3200 for a day at court.
If you consider that you may only clear $40 per hour for every therapy patient you are seeing, it would take you 80 hours of therapy or two weeks of full time therapy work to earn what a forensic psychologist could earn during one long grueling hard day in a court house. Also our mentors’ bill for their travel time, hotel expenses and preparation time for these long hard days, which amounts to several, several more billable hours.
Therefore, in private practice forensic psychologists can easily clear a $150,000 to 250,000 annual salary if they are working full time and can find enough referrals to keep them busy for 40+ hours a week. This will probably involve an assortment of work coming directly from attorneys along with various consulting contracts that forensic psychologist will have with the state to gain them a salary in forensic psychology at this level.
Forensic psychologists directly employed by hospitals with forensic psychiatric units will make far less, but still reliably more than their colleagues in these settings who are solely providing clinical services. The salaries for these forensic psychologists just out of their pre-doctoral internships may start at $85,000 per year at the high end with their clinical counterparts starting at $65,000 per year at the high end.
As undergraduate students, we are still thinking in terms of hourly jobs and this whole thousand dollar per year thing is hard to understand. However, our mentors have provided us with the following calculation to breakdown that annual salary down in a way that helps us grasp what that means in terms of our lifestyle.
A workweek is typically 40 hours. There are 52 weeks in a year. Between the sick days, holidays and your days to catch up on work, our mentors recommend taking that 40 hours per week and multiplying it by 48 weeks. In other words, we should assume you would be working approximately 1,920 hours per week. If you are clearing $250,000 per year, or if that is your goal, you divide $250,000 by 1,920 hours. In this example, by using these assumptions, you should anticipate making approximately $130 an hour to earn $250,000 per year. Given work study programs pay $20 an hour, it is clear to me exactly what $250,000 per year would mean. It would essentially mean six times more than what you are making now. A $120,000 per year would be $65 per hour and $60,000 per year would essentially mean half of that.
Salaries in forensic psychology have remained consistent and relatively higher than other areas of psychological practice. It is nice to have mentors who are willing to open up about these numbers given the amount of student loans we will have to pay back if we pursue all of these years of education. Professionals never want to come off as being crass by getting into these numbers, so we hope this salary information and breakdown will spare you the awkwardness of asking your professor for this information.
You might also consider joining us and having access to our network of mentors that are more than willing to be candid about this information and to assist us in our goals to become a forensic psychologist one day. They will encourage you to join our efforts in producing information for this website by interviewing them and writing articles, which will only be helpful to us (the writers and the consumers of this information) in the long run. Consider joining us today.